USF1?s Peter Windsor and the strange story of the Brabham F1 team

Posted on | Author Keith Collantine

Peter Windsor helped Brabham return to F1 in 1989
Peter Windsor helped Brabham return to F1 in 1989

USF1 is expected to announce its plans to enter F1 in 2010 later today.

The plan is being headed by two men, Ken Anderson and Peter Windsor. Windsor has worn many hats in an F1 career spanning more than two decades, but mystery surrounds his last involvement with Brabham.

His role in taking over the team after Bernie Ecclestone sold it reportedly ended with Windsor being kidnapped and beaten. What happened?

After his Brabham team won world championships in 1981 and 1983 Ecclestone became increasingly absorbed by the business of running F1. He let the team’s championship entry lapse for 1988 and only announced at the first race of the season that it would not be competing that year.

Windsor began making arrangements to take over the team. I’ve had difficulty finding out much about what happened next beyond what I could find in Autosport and Terry Lovell’s biography of Ecclestone – it isn’t even mentioned in Windsor’s Wikipedia entry. So if you can add any facts to the story please post them in the comments.

Windsor arranged a takeover of the team financed by two Swiss men – Walter Brun and Joachim L???thi. But at the end of 1988 Brun sold his portion of the company to Luthi, and Windsor, despite his 20% stake in the company, was squeezed out.

Windsor successfully appealed to the high court to freeze his stake in Brabham and obtained an injunction against L???thi. But L???thi was already busy transferring ownership of the company abroad, and loaning money to it from another of his companies that was on the verge of bankruptcy. Halfway through 1989 he was arrested and eventually convicted for embezzling $133m.

Windsor’s legal action dragged on and in 1991 he was finally awarded ??450,000 compensation. But according to Lovell’s book:

Six months earlier he had been bundled into a van by two men as he left the Williams team headquarters in Didcot, Oxfordshire. Employees who went to his aid were threatened by what appeared to be a gun. Handcuffed and blindfolded, he was driven to the countryside, beaten up and later dumped by the roadside. He was taken to hospital for treatment to cuts and bruising.

After such an ill-fated encounter with Formula 1 team ownership it’s astounding that Windsor would ever want to go near the sport again. Let alone take up the huge challenge of bringing an American team to a championship with no North American races while there’s a recession on.

Hopefully Windsor?s ambitious new project will enjoy better fortune. Formula 1 badly needs the USF1 dream to come true.

Read more: Peter Windsor vs Darrell Waltrip on F1

Image (C) Milan Vasko / Gurneyflap